COVID-19 Update for Virginia
January 25, 2021
Virginia’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve. Please visit the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) website for current clinical guidance, epidemiologic data, and information on Virginia’s vaccination response. The following updates are included here:
- Required Information for COVID-19 Immunizations
- COVID-19 Vaccine Allocation Methodology
- B.1.1.7 Variant of COVID-19 Virus Detected in Virginia
- Travel Restrictions for People Entering the United States
- New Text Messaging Service to Streamline Positive Test Result Awareness and Exposure Notifications
Reporting Race/Ethnicity for COVID-19 Immunizations
Virginia providers participating in the federal COVID-19 vaccination program are required to enter COVID-19 immunizations into the Virginia Immunization Information System (VIIS). Required fields include name and date of birth. It is imperative to also report race, ethnicity, sex, and patient’s phone and address, including county/zip code of residence. The quality of data reported to VIIS has recently improved, and I thank you for your attention to this. However, 53% of COVID-19 vaccinations reported to VIIS are still missing race and ethnicity. This information is critical for helping us understand gaps in vaccination coverage so we can follow up with targeted education and ensure equitable access to COVID-19 vaccination in Virginia.
VDH COVID-19 vaccination web resources for healthcare professionals include information on how to enroll as a COVID-19 vaccine provider, guidance documents, and training opportunities.
COVID-19 Vaccine Allocation Methodology
Virginia’s local health departments, health systems, and other providers have scaled up their vaccine clinical operational models and now have reliable through-put that exceeds the current weekly amount of COVID-19 vaccine allocation to Virginia from the federal government. Operation Warp Speed advised states to expect about the same number of doses per week until late February or early March. For Virginia that is about 105,000 first-doses a week plus the appropriate second-dose allocations 3-4 weeks following the first doses (depending on type of vaccine). Because demand for vaccines, both from Virginians as well as vaccinators, far exceeds supply, vaccines will be allocated to localities in Virginia on a per capita basis. Local health districts will continue to work with partners to offer vaccination targeted at Virginias who fall under Phase 1a and Phase 1b.
B.1.1.7 Variant of COVID-19 Virus Detected in Virginia
Today, Virginia’s Division of Consolidated Laboratory Services (DCLS) confirmed the first identified case of the SARS-CoV-2 variant B.1.1.7 in Virginia, which first emerged in the United Kingdom and is associated with increased person-to-person transmission of COVID-19. DCLS confirmed the case through use of next-generation sequencing, which provides a genetic blueprint of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. To date, DCLS has sequenced more than 10% of positive tests conducted at DCLS, and is working with other labs in Virginia to solicit additional positive samples to sequence so public health officials can assess variants circulating in Virginia.
Although this B.1.1.7 variant may spread more quickly between people than other strains circulating in our communities, scientists are investigating whether this variant causes more severe illness. VDH continues its work with communities across Virginia to slow the spread of all strains of COVID-19 through widespread adherence to preventive actions, supporting testing and vaccination efforts, and conducting investigations of cases and outbreaks.
Travel Restrictions for People Entering the United States
To reduce introduction and spread of new variants, CDC issued an order that goes into effect January 26, requiring all air passengers arriving to the United States from a foreign country to get tested for COVID-19 no more than 3 days before their flight departs and to provide proof of the negative result or documentation of having recovered from COVID-19 to the airline before boarding the flight. For those who have been infected in the past 3 months and have met the criteria to end isolation, a copy of the positive viral test result and a travel clearance letter from a healthcare provider or public health official are required to document recovery.
New Text Messaging Service to Streamline Positive Test Result Awareness and Exposure Notifications
This week VDH will launch a new text messaging service to notify people who receive a positive COVID-19 viral test result in Virginia. These texts will be triggered when VDH receives a positive COVID-19 lab result registered with a valid mobile phone number. They will encourage anyone who has tested positive for COVID-19 to stay home and away from others. The texts will come from 804-336-3915 and will only be sent between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. The messaging, also available in Spanish, will then provide a link to the new COVIDWISE Verification Code Portal. This online portal that goes live with the launch of this new service allows people who have tested positive for COVID-19 to obtain a self-verification code, which will let them anonymously submit their test result through COVIDWISE, Virginia’s free COVID-19 exposure notification app.
Thank you for all your continued efforts to protect Virginians from COVID-19. Please continue to contact your local health department if you have questions about COVID-19.
M. Norman Oliver, MD, MA
State Health Commissioner